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    Bon appétit at COP Xio Haq

    Bon appétit at COP Xio Haq

    Courtesy Photo | Unable to shake hands after preparing food, Army Staff Sgt. Erica Christmas of Fort...... read more read more

    LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The tantalizing smell of sizzling bacon, fried eggs and fresh coffee makes your mouth water as you enter the “Spartan Shack” dining facility at Combat Outpost Xio Haq. While most bases in Afghanistan have the luxury of contracted cooks, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division’s food service specialists run this facility.

    Upon arriving at COP Xio Haq in mid-November, food service specialists Staff Sgt. Erica Christmas and Sgt. Kimberly Eagans jumped in spatula first in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner.

    “We were a little overwhelmed when we first arrived here. We didn’t have a schedule ironed out yet so we were working from 4 a.m. to midnight to make sure an adequate feast was prepared for this special day,” said Eagans of Greensboro, Ga.

    The “Spartan Shack” has only six food service specialists who serve 300 to 350 soldiers a day. Stating that these food service specialists were initially a “little overwhelmed” could be considered a vast understatement. Not only were they working with a limited crew, but limited resources, as well The dining facility, or DFAC, was originally set up as expeditionary; one sole generator was responsible for powering up the entire facility.

    “Preparing food simultaneously was out of the question. It was more like a relay race,” said Christmas, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Eagans would finish searing some steak on the stove top, and when she finished, I would run to the oven and pop in some rolls. It was quite the undertaking.”

    In an effort to keep things interesting and entertaining, Christmas and Eagans incorporate a different theme for each month.
    “We just celebrated the Super Bowl, so in spirit of this time honored game, we made sure to include all of the usual fixings. Pizza, hot wings, mozzarella sticks and jalapeño poppers all graced the menu,” said Eagans.

    Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Special Troops “Spartan” Battalion are grateful for the exceptional service that their food service specialists contribute on a daily basis.

    “Although they have limited ingredients and supplies, they are resourceful with what they do have. Because of their continuous hard work, we never go hungry,” said 4th BSTB’s Command Sgt. Maj. Maurice Greening.

    Anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows that working in a kitchen all day has its downsides— food service specialists usually go home smelling like food. This can attract some unwanted attention from the local wildlife in this environment.

    “I had just crawled into my sleeping bag one night and was in the process of getting cozy when I felt something crawl over my shoulder. I knew it was Mr. Bo Jangles [a certain mouse who was quite the nuisance in the soldiers’ sleep bay]. I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night,” said an animated Eagans.

    Christmas and Eagans with their 18 and nine years of experience in the food service specialty, respectively, bring a wealth of knowledge to their younger soldiers.

    “This is a good training opportunity for junior food service specialists. We have the ability to show them tricks of the trade in the field, which is quite different than a garrison environment. As a mentor for Pfc. Erin Chowning, I love teaching her new recipes and techniques. When she catches on, a smile spreads across her face. She feels accomplished and, I in turn, know that I have done my job,” said Christmas.

    Despite the growing pains they encountered upon taking over the DFAC, both food service specialists couldn’t be happier. With two previous deployments under each of their aprons, they love what they do.

    “Not only do we satisfy soldiers’ appetites, but we boost their morale. When soldiers finish an eleven-hour convoy, we serve them something delicious. Hot chow beats a MRE [Meals Ready to Eat] any day,” said Eagans.



    Date Taken: 03.03.2013
    Date Posted: 03.03.2013 10:21
    Story ID: 102838
    Hometown: GREENSBORO, GA, US

    Web Views: 638
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    Bon appétit at COP Xio Haq